Northwest Coast Indian History and Culture
Northwest Coast Indian History and Culture: Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian
The ancestors of the Northwest Coast Indians were probably nomadic hunters who wandered down an ice-free corridor east of the Rocky Mountains during the late Pleistocene. As the glaciers retreated, people settled in coastal areas in what today is Southeast Alaska. Southern British Columbia has been occupied for at least 11,000 years. By 2000 BP, remains are clearly ancestral to the Northwest Coast Indians. Basalt hammers, antler wedges and nephrite adzes were used to build huge plank houses, while spindle whorls indicate weaving. There were wooden vessels and baskets, but no pottery. There was no agriculture, and the only domestic animal was the dog.
Cultural finds in Alaska date back at least 10,000 years, but the sequence is less clear. The Tlingit and Haida Indians apparently migrated down the Skeena River. The Haida found the Queen Charlotte Islands inhabited by a people they call the Old Haida, whom they absorbed. In the 18th century, the Haida expanded into Alaska. The Tlingit moved to the coast later, some of them down the Stikine River. In pre-contact times, Northwest Coast peoples probably numbered 60,000.